Thursday, April 06, 2006

What Good Angst Is

Today I had a brief encounter that left my reserves of patience empty.

While I wait for word from E.W.U., my mind grows more weary with thoughts of failure. Doubtful thoughts, questions like "What if," refuse to leave me alone. Even though I am accepted into the Creative Writing program as a student, I'm still in limbo about the teaching position, which is the key element on which everything hinges. The teaching position would pay for schooling as well as provide a minor stipend (even the university's poor pay is equivalent to several raises from Starbucks). Without the teaching position, I would be unable to attend the school.
I was about to write that "my future depends upon acceptance." As most of you will be quick to point out, that is not true. Now, a more accurate statement is "The future I have been envisioning depends on acceptance." My future, as the Lord has shown again and again, lies in the hands of the Almighty. The work I've done in the past several months might not culminate in a teaching position at Eastern, but, as Lynné is always quick to point out, "God will have something better for you if you don't get this." I've done a lot of things that led nowhere--applying for Wheaton College in my third year of undergraduate work, writing a screenplay and submitting it for ABC's annual competition, numerous submissions to magazines that returned only rejections. Yet, in spite of these things, I am able to sit and enjoy my life. That, if you listen to the Ecclesiastor, is a miracle of God.
So we come to my point. I am angst-ridden with waiting. Whenever I reason through the process of waiting on the Lord, I often forget the angst of waiting. You see, my reasoning goes like this: God promises you big things, sometimes in exchange for an act of faith, and all you must do is wait. Waiting, incidentally, is a remarkably easy thing as it requires one to do absolutely nothing. Standing guard requires the soldier only to be ready to act--not climb, kill, or run. "Just stand and wait," to quote a Milton sonnet. So when God asks you to wait, all you must do is pre-occupy yourself with some other matter, trivial or not, until the moment comes. Then, you must act.
That is my reasoning about patience, but the angst part comes when you depend on the Lord's coming through. My trouble is I am becoming resentful of my job at Starbucks. (All of you who work in the service industry who read my 'blog must be aware of the possibility of such feelings. Despite what amazing things I can do with my li'l paycheck, I am often aware of what more I could do with a bigger one, or one that requires less work than Starbucks. When I moved to Spokane, I took a two dollar pay-cut--which meant that I received the same paycheck working part-time in Texas as I did full-time in Spokane. I know some good people who proudly work the service industry, partly because they like it or because they like a freedom it affords them. I have neither of those feelings. The only bulwark against my resentment of my chosen job is that it is familiar, it has been the one that paid the bills thus far. That resentment, coupled with the realization that many of us twenty-somethings are not in higher-ranking jobs because the Baby-Boomer generation is, in their older age, keeping its occupations longer than previous generations. My tirade on this point has ended.) With such deep-seated resentment, I look ahead to a golden future at E.W.U. Lynné will sometimes daydream with me. She'll say, "You know, when you're teaching, it'll be better." I know we're setting some expectations a little high, but it also keeps me in the faith of God's good work being fulfilled.
I therefore imagine that angst is a fuel for the spiritual worker. I don't know how to look at it since I don't see any passages about Abraham wringing his hands about his descendents. I don't know of any Biblical tale where the protagonist has "emotional worries" about whether God'll come through. Even Jonah has profound reasoning behind his cowardly flight. So where do we, we children of modernists, go to understand this emotional strife and its role in our lives?
I honestly don't know. That's why I leave the question out there. Leave a little note saying you'll pray for me. Leave a little note saying "Just pray" (which I think is the only recourse we worry-worts have). But leave some thought.


Anonymous said...

I am praying for you

Anonymous said...

I Thes. 1:2

Daniel Leslie Peterson said...

I'm praying. Just pray. (I assume you already have noticed the ironic juxtaposition of "angst" to "tumultuous joy"!) Meanwhile, get distracted with this: The same day you are suffering angst, Deb buys me an autographed copy of Hannah and the Mountain: Notes toward a Wilderness Fatherhood by Jonathan Johnson, for my birthday. (For some other background on this day, see my "Bambi and Christians" blog at I find this on the back flyleaf: "Jonathan Johnson is an assistant professor at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, the graduate writing program at Eastern Washington University." Do you know the name? His story is wonderful (I'm through "The First Trimester") and can't wait to show it to you! Are you writing LilyAnne's story, like I suggested?!

Charles de Foucauld said...

We must speak to God with perfect simplicity, telling Him all our thoughts, even our complaints. Since our sufferings are allowed by Him we may make our plaint to God as our Lord did, but we should complain with all reverence, love, submission, unbounded and loving conformity to His will. (Quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer, p. 649, Finan reading for April 9)

Youssef Sleiman said...

Wow. I truly must remember to write in my blog when little mind-events arise; they garner the most replies!

I wonder who Charles deFoucauld is.

There is, in a sense, the same angst in emotions found in Hannah praying for a child. I just remembered that when Dan referenced the book Deb bought him.

About that book's author, yes Jonathan Johnson is VERY familiar to me. HE is the Program Director, new to it this year, that I've briefly e-mailed about the EWUMFACW, before and after the G.E.D. He's also the person I've never actually met but talked to his secretary Pam. Still... I've walked by his office.

LilyAnne's story has come in spurts. Between different projects, I've made several notes. On one hand, I make significant progress on the work I apply my hand to (the script for Charlie Mauck, the fiction piece for Lynné). On the other, I have neglected other projects. I wish I had more eight-hour writing days. And then, I would pray not to squander them. ;)

Speaking of prayer--I do thank everyone (Dan and Sandy) who mentioned their prayers, as well as those who've read and not said they are praying. I do know that such "emotional worries" lessen or disappear when I know more people than I are praying.

Daniel Leslie Peterson said...

Charles Eugene, viscount of Foucauld, was born in 1858. He served as a French Army officer in Algieria beginning in 1881, and prepared a mapping of oases in Morocco in 1883. In 1886 he underwent a religious conversion, and in 1890 he joined a Trappist monastery, but soon left to become a solitary hermit in Palestine. In 1901 he went to Algeria, where he eventually settled at Tamanrasset and there lived the life of a missionary priest and prepared a Taureg dictionary. He was killed in an anti-French uprising on 1 December 1916, by those who said that his goodness tended to create friendly feelings toward the French.
If your French is good, check out

Daniel Leslie Peterson said...

I just discovered that the term “angst” has a formal use in philosophy, and its own entry in my dictionary of philosophy!

In the entry for “Existentialism”: Kierkegaard believes that “no one can create a life for themselves which will survive the vicissitudes of fortune without making ‘the leap of faith’, a personal commitment to the kind of life lived by Jesus Christ, i.e. without becoming ‘Christlike’. What stands behind this belief is the experience of Angst—variously translated as ‘dread’ or ‘anxiety’.” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 1995, p. 259)

In the entry for “Angst”: “A recurrent state of disquiet concerning one’s life which Existentialists interpret as evidence that human life has a dimension which a purely naturalistic psychology cannot comprehend. The term was introduced by Kierkegaard, who held that Angst (usually translated here as ‘dread’) concerning the contingencies of fortune should show us that we can only gain a secure sense of our identity by taking the leap of faith and entering into a relationship with God. Heidegger uses the same term (here usually translated as ‘anxiety’) to describe a sense of unease concerning the structure of one’s life which, because it does not arise from any specific threat, is to be diagnosed as a manifestation of our own responsibility for this structure. Sartre uses the term angoisse (usually translated as ‘anguish’) for much the same phenomenon as Heidegger describes.” (Ibid. p. 35)